Auto body shop gives away 40th car to person in need

December 12, 2012 7:18:50 PM PST
We live in a nation so wealthy that most of us consider owning a car almost as a birthright, particularly here in California. So imagine, for a moment, trying to live and work in the Bay Area without one. A few fortunate East Bay residents won't need to worry about that anymore.

We already knew that this day, 12/12/12, would have memorable significance, but at Mike's Auto Body in Antioch, Amanda Arroyo and her young daughters will always remember it as the day Christmas came early.

There is a reason she named her youngest daughter Adrian. That was the name of her fiance, who died in a car accident three years ago. It pretty much stopped her life, cold.

"And we had just found out we were pregnant with her when the accident happened, so it's been hard," said Arroyo.

Arroyo's hardship letter was one of 150 that Sal Contreras and the people from Mike's Auto Body poured through, this year. Every Christmas, they work with insurance brokers and parts suppliers to take otherwise totaled cars, rebuild them, and give them away to a few fortunate recipients.

"It's very tough, we really have to go through all of them. We read them and then we give them to our technicians," said Contreras.

Techs like Cameron Lewis who donated more than 100 hours of labor to turn a wrecked Chevy Cobalt into a practically new car for Arroyo.

"We all have little kids. That hits home to everybody," said Lewis.

And so, it was the coming together of donators and recipients on Wednesday. This is the 12th year of the program. By the time the day ends, they will have given away a total of 40 cars.

The first car went to a military family in need. Another went to single mother Kayla Walker. A third, a mini-van, went to the Foster A Dream non-profit in Pittsburgh. A fourth car went to single mom Connie Guitierrez as she cried tears of joy.

"It helps me out so I can get my kids to school and finish going to college," said Guiterrez.

And Arroyo received her car, too along with two bicycles for her little girls. When asked what she would tell her girls about this, she said, "We're blessed. Honestly, we were truly blessed."

A lot of joy has come from cars that were once written off, but now salvaged -- doing the same for peoples' lives.


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